In the suitably gothic grandeur of the Rialto theatre, David Crawford bounds onto the stage to tell us the tale of H.P Lovecraft. Crawford summons the spirit of the horror writer to craft a performance that is part biographical tale and part dramatic reading of his works. However, this one man shows struggles to find its centre as it drifts between our narrator, Lovecraft himself and the stories that he created.
This one man shows struggles to find its centre as it drifts between our narrator, Lovecraft himself and the stories that he created.
Crawford begins as a cordial and sharp narrator. Clad in period costume, he does a wonderful job crafting Lovecraft’s upbringing as one of struggle, tragedy and creativity. After some chanting, Crawford invokes the spirit of the pre-pubescent Lovecraft to inhabit the stage to tell us of his love of writing and the pressure he receives from his Mother. Dotted between the narrator and Lovecraft’s life are readings from his works such as Night Gaunts and The Tomb. While these are suitably creepy and well performed by Crawford, the spirit of Lovecraft stands out awkwardly. While it provides a good emotional backdrop, I was left missing the narrator and his peculiar charm as his appearances breathe life into Lovecraft and his demons better than the ‘spirit’ does. The performance seems to not wish to spoil the mystery of Lovecraft by explaining too much, but also invites us to stare into the life of the man himself.
The readings are by far the strongest element of the show and the full retelling of Shadow Over Innsmouth enraptures the audience. Crawford imbues this tale with an impending sense of doom that lets his horror bleed onto the stage. This is interspersed with Lovecraft’s spirit talking to us as he dies from cancer worsened by his poverty. Throughout the show the appearances of Lovecraft are usually laced with humour, but the show ends on a suitably dark note. However, I did feel that more could have been done to link Lovecraft’s life with his work. It is often too brief to fully grasp the personal struggle.
Perhaps the greatest of Lovecraft’s personal monsters is one given brief attention during the show. The writer is blacklisted by many for the racism present in his stories. Crawford touches upon it as his spirit comments on his fear of Jews and foreigners, but redemption is attempted as he realises he has loved ones who are not white or American. Crawford also removes the racism and xenophobia present in Shadow Over Innsmouth. It is my understanding that the man himself never softened in his attitudes and it left a sour taste in the mouth to have the issue tackled in such an offhand manner.
Lovecraft’s Monsters is an interesting hour but leaves you wanting. I could, however, happily sit for an entire hour listening to Crawford’s dramatic retellings of Lovecraft’s weird fiction. His performance when reciting is splendid but the forays into Lovecraft’s personal life and deviations into narration left me wishing for a more focused piece.